FOOD GUIDE: Shirasu (しらす)

Shirasu  (しらす) is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine which commonly consists of baby Sardine fish that is eaten either raw or boiled with salty water. Since it is very small in size, the whole body is consumed as food. Its mild sweet taste and soft texture adds more flavor to any meal. It can be devoured on top of a bowl of rice or eaten in combination with other fish as tempura.

Found more abundantly in Shizouka prefecture, the fisherman hurry to sell this fish fresh immediately after catching it because it spoils rather quickly. The ones that are not sold right away are either steamed or blanched in saltwater, and then dried in sun or by heating in ovens. This process increases their shelf life and makes the delivery possible to other markets like Tsukiji in Tokyo.

In other parts of the world, Shirasu is known as whitebait and can be an immature fry of any fish like Mackerel or Bass.

Shirasu is so popular that it was made into a character by a Japanese stationery company, with its famous tagline “Life is survival” or in Japanese, “人生はサバイバル”.